Target: LHB's Stephen Vogt C/1B ($3600, +128 OPS and +.048 ISO vs. RHP) and Josh Reddick OF ($3800, +83 OPS and +.022 ISO vs. RHP) against RHP Jeff Samardzija ($7000, +78 OPS and +.053 ISO career vs. LHB)
Samardzija has been getting lit up like a pinball machine this season, and the lights have been especially flashy in recent weeks, with a 7.91 ERA and 11 homers allowed over his last eight starts. His split platoon split has grown to over 150 points of OPS this season and 18 of the 26 homers that he has allowed in 2015 have come against left-handed bats, further exposing the ingredients to a lost season for the Shark. Vogt had an excellent first couple months before his stat-line cratered over the summer, but he has rediscovered the stroke that put him on the map and his hit .356/.418/.610 over the last 20 games, though only 14 of those contests have been starts as the platoon-conscious A's spare him from facing southpaws. The only thing holding him back for tonight's ballgame is a groin injury that has him listed day-to-day and has kept him out of the starting lineup for the past week. Reddick has no current injury issues to worry about, and though his recent performance might tempter enthusiasm a bit (he has a second-half OPS of 715), the outfielder has two homers in his last five games to help quell any concern that he might be off his game. The platoon split includes a robust 155 points of OPS this season, leaning toward right-handers, with nearly a 100-point improvement in the slugging department compared to facing a left-hander. The A's don't have too many left-handed hitting options with which to exploit Samardzija's vulnerability, which might help to spare the right-hander's line in tonight's game.
Polanco's bat takes a massive hit against southpaws, but speed is his primary asset and Lester's issues with holding runners have become a major problem. If Polanco dos get on base then expect him to take off with thievery in mind. Marte, on the other hand, gets to enjoy a heavy platoon advantage (career +140 OPS and +.046 ISO against left-handers) in addition to the freedom to run virtually at will. His only deterrent could be himself, as the reasonably-priced Marte has been battling an illness that has kept him out of the starting lineup for the past several days. If he's back in the lineup then Marte represents one of the best bargains on today's slate. Baserunners are stealing with reckless abandon off of Lester this season as his issues with holding runners have become household knowledge, leading the league with 50 stolen base attempts and 42 successful swipes on the campaign.
Target: A.J. Pollock OF ($4400, 34-of-41 SB this season), Ender Inciarte OF ($3700, 17-of-26 SB) and Chris Owings 2B ($3100, 16-of-20 SB) against RHP Tyson Ross ($9600, opponents 34-of-46 SB this season)
The top two pitchers in terms of giving up steals are on the docket for today, and though Ross falls shy of the egregious steal-efficiency of Lester, his preponderance of dirty breaking balls gives opposing baserunners several opportunities each game to steal a bag without a throw, as the catcher seeks to corral yet another wayward slider. One doesn't typically need a many excuses to roster Pollock, but his recent slump (513 OPS over his last ten ballgames) and general vulnerability towards right-handers (ISO falls .066) might cause some to shy away, the likelihood of a steal against Ross combines with the relatively-low price to make him a tremendous bargain for today. Enciarte and Owings bring speed to the table but little else, making today one of the better opportunities of the season to utilize their services.
Last 18 games (18 starts): .307/.388/.627 with six homers and six doubles in 75 plate appearances
Werth has battled injuries for much of the season, but manager Matt Williams has stuck with him in the upper part of the lineup while the 36-year old worked out his struggles at the plate. The patience has finally paid off, cracked an OPS over 1.000 in his last 18 games while showing a blend of contact, selective aggression, and power at the plate. Werth's two-homer game yesterday was his first multi-dinger game of the season, and in fact six of the nine homers that he has hit on the year have come within the confines of the above sample. I think it's fair to say that Werth has finally shaken the injuries that hobbled him for much of the season, and tonight's game against the hittable David Buchanan should provide another opportunity for Werth to pad his slash line.
Temper: RHP Tyson Ross ($9600) on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks
Last 12 games (12 starts): a 2.78 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 23 walks in 74.3 innings, opponents hitting .225/.291/.339 in 299 plate appearances
Ross has had a weird season. The high steal count is par for the course but his sudden affinity for giving away walks has been a surprise, while the 185 strikeouts in 176.0 innings continues a four-year trend of increasing K frequency. Ross keeps the ball in the yard, having surrendered just eight homers this season, but three of those jacks came against the Rockies in his last start, and he didn't have thin air to blame as the game was played under the marine layer in San Diego. He had given up just two homeruns over his previous 24 starts combined, an astonishingly-low total for a pitcher in any ballpark, and one would expect his homer-squelching ways to resume tonight in Arizona. The D'backs are a formidable opponent who could throw a wrench into the best laid plans of Tyson Ross, especially considering that Arizona has the second-most steals in the National League and Ross has given up more successful swipes than all but one pitcher in the bigs this year. The “Temper” tag comes from the combination of his vulnerability to homers in his last start, his hefty price tag, and the fact that the Diamondbacks have scored the most runs in the National League.
Last season's breakout has carried over to 2015, as J.D. Martinez has knocked 36 homeruns on the year with a .549 slugging percentage and an ISO of .262 in 2015. His overall slash line falls within 15 points of OPS when compared to last year, and he has continued the power display over an extra 101 plate appearances this season to cement his status as a bona fide slugger. Martinez is having a somewhat slow month of September, with just two homers and a 757 OPS on the month, but he has the ability to breakout with a multihomer game at any time and will be facing one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in the American League. Hughes has given up 28 homers in 144.3 innings this season, a rate of 1.7 longballs per nine innings, and his career-low K rate has further encouraged hard contact and free souvenirs for the local fans. Martinez cost $5100 of virtual funds just yesterday, and his opponent is hardly enough to justify such a massive discount to his price tag; if anything, the matchup with Hughes ought to further inflate the price of Martinez.
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